You wake up at nine o’clock in the morning, sun is already high. Today is your son’s Mitia’s birthday: sixteen years ago, in a hot Milan August night he showed up one week late for the date. A 4 kg chubby guy, if you lived in the U.S. today he could eventually get the driver’s license, Heavens (God only knows how much that would be useful right now, eh?). You quickly celebrate for breakfast: the camping concierge is really sorry but no, there are no candles available!
You take the underground and in a glimpse you reach the Gamla Stan maze of streets for a walk. Then you take the ferry to Djurgården, and after the umpteenth hot dog you visit the Vasa Museet; the kids are excited by the huge ship, evidence of one of the greatest Epic Fail in history: sunk the day of the launch just a few meters from the harbor, because it was just too BIG to float.
300 years after they fished it and built a museum around. A note: as many others, the museum is free for all under 18.
In the afternoon you stroll along the elegant Ostermalm, silent and a little strict. You then transfer to pass the night in Södermalm, Stöckholm’s former working class borough and today bohemienne district, stuffed with coffees, young designers boutiques, second hand trendy shops. All definitely swedish-style: which means elegant, smart and low profile . In Nytorget, a square full of young families with naked children bathing in the fountain, you have a brief relax. Greta Garbo was born here, one century ago. You think that you would love living here: you would make do with a flat in the tenement building facing the square; or even better, a small attic in the cozy corner house, example of the clean Swedish architecture of the 19th century beginning, with circular bow windows on the corner; or maybe, even one of those wooden maisonettes on the east side of the square, with white framed windows and backyards.
You asked for Sweden as Erasmus project location, a little more than sixteen years ago: who knows, if you didn’t had to renounce you would live exactly in this lovely square, and you would be one of those Italians who get back to Milan just to celebrate Christmas with the family. But what matters in the end is that, now, you got here with Mitia that turns exactly those sixteen years.
You celebrate properly with a full, meat-based Swedish dinner at Pelikan’s, gorgeous traditional restaurant in the neighborhood. You chat with a couple of Swedish, they ask you where you come from and you tell them your story. They wish you a safe and merry travel, and repeat what a lot of people did before: it’s a beautiful experience for your kids. Goodness knows. Goodness knows if they appreciate like you this city and all the wonderful places you are visiting, as a prize for the thousands miles you stack up driving the big Volkswagen bear.
You take the underground to get back to the camping, placed in suburbian area. To reach it you need to walk through a grey popular housing neighborhood, while finally (it’s 10:30 in the evening) the sun goes down.
You all feel cheerful and stupid, while you walk the deserted streets: Mitia explains his theory regarding Peppa Pig’s brother that, he claims, has been adopted (“the name of all the characters has the same initial as the animal species they belong to: Peppa Pig, Danny Dog, Susy Sheep… all but her brother, whose name is GEORGE. Why? Because nobody knew what animal species his parents belonged to: because he has been abandoned!“).
You sleep badly, that night: the meat feast reveals hard to be digested. You have strange dreams you don’t remember in the morning. Woke up late, you take your time to have breakfast. It’s another beautiful day: you decide to reach the city with the van. You park it easily close to the bridge that leads to Djurgården. You have a picnic on the island meadows and then take the girls to Junibacken, and let Mitia (he’s too adult now for such children leisures!) to visit the Nordiska Museet happy to be on his own. You feel a little reluctant about your visit, instead: a small theme park focused on Nordic children literature, what the hell do you know about this? Though, a lot of people recommended it, and little Maia is too excited by now. And eventually it is a surprise: a little magic place, with the actualization of the settings of last century’s Scandinavian children literature, all of them recreated with such an unexpected gentleness and artistic sensibility. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know almost none of the characters: the girls are so enthusiastic, in particular Maia rings with happiness and curiosity, running, jumping and crawling in each and every room. You hardly succeed in taking her away from the realistic copy of Villa Villekulla, with chests filled with costumes and disguises for children. No video, no sound or special FX, no animatrons: we are light years far from Disneyland world of plastic. It’s just like entering in a 3D watercolor or crayon drawing, where you can touch everything. The main characters, anyway, you know them very well: Pippi Långstrump and the Moomins. And now may you be allowed to present an
extremely controversial invective about children’s literature and pedagogy: Scandinavia Vs Italy
Pippi Långstrum, anarchist and happy: lives on her own, doesn’t attend any school, brawls with boys, eats loads of junk food, smokes (probably drinks shots regularly, in the white spaces between the chapters, you think), has a ridiculous idea of order: though, she’s doing pretty well, and even her conservative bourgeois neighbors love and respect her.
The Moomins, gloomy, psychedelic and provided with a surreal empathy in a world where no living being is totally good or evil (is this maybe the reason why they have had great success in Miyazaki’s Japan?); in Italy they were published just by Linus magazine in the 70’s as an unconventional comic. Both of them were created by female artists, whose nonconformist lifes arouse your curiosity (in particular the Finnish Tove Jansson).
And then let’s say it: our Pinocchio, whose moral sense can just be originated by the menace of punishment or the fear of criminals, that coward hypocrite conformist he is, is a children reading you NEVER liked. And regarding the “Cuore” book by De Amicis, then, let’s forget about. (End of the invective)
A quick visit to the Fotografiska Museet (temporary exibithions not much exciting actually, but the space is wonderful), and you get back to the van,
Stockholm remains one of your favorite cities: elegant but warm, endowed with a spectacular but subtle beauty. Tomorrow you leave for the North, Höga Kusten is waiting for you.